Revealing the Past

Recently, Becky has been doing a lot of research into the Cross House, and has been delighting me with emails rich with information. Becky, and her husband, John, were my guest for dinner a few weeks ago.

One such story involves Issac Lambert, who purchased the house in either December 1906, or January 1907. Lambert was a prominent attorney and politician. His wife, Hattie, died in February that year. It is not known if Hattie occupied the Cross House. Lambert later married Milson Cutler.

In 1909, Lambert tragically died in the Copeland Hotel, in Topeka, Kansas.


Isaac Lambert, Sr.


The hotel.


After the fire.


At first, Lambert was missing. Then…


The New York Times, New York, NY 15 Jan 1909

State Senator Stewart Drops Guests from Windows – I. E. Lambert Perishes

TOPEKA, Kan., Jan. 14. – The body of Isaac E. Lambert, an Emporia attorney and politician, was found to-night in the ruins of the Copeland Hotel, with the head missing. When last seen, Lambert stood at an upper window, soon after the fire started at 4 A. M., begging the firemen to save him. Finally he disappeared into the interior.

The Copeland Hotel was an old structure, and proved to be an easy prey to the flames.

Several daring rescues were made duirng the progress of the fire by J. W. Stewart, State Senator from Sedgwick County, aided by W. Y. Morgan, editor of The Hutchinson News. Senator Stewart had a room on the fourth floor of the hotel. When he was awakened he ran into the hall and found it full of smoke. He had hardly opened the door when T. B. Murdock, editor of the Eldorado Republican, appeared. A few seconds later Mr. and Mrs. W. Y. Morgan, whose room was opposite to Stewart’s, appeared.

All started toward the fire escapes, but they were cut off by the flames in the hall. Stewart rushed into a room and threw open the window. Then he grabbed a mattress and threw it out. There is a two-story building on the south side of the hotel, and the mattress fell on the roof of this building. The Senator Stewart got T. B. Murdock to the window and held him by the hands, something like trapeze performers hold each other by the hands and wrists in doing the “leap for life.” Senator Stewart swung Murdock out from the building and to one side, and then let him drop to the mattress.

Mrs. Morgan and Mr. Morgan were dropped to the mattress in the same way. Mrs. Morgan struck a timber on the roof and her leg was broken.




The Lambert family plot is in the same Emporia cemetery as the Cross family plot.


From A Standard History of Kansas, and the 1886 Portrait and Biographical Album of Knox County, Biographical Publishing Company, Chicago, page 698.

ISAAC E. LAMBERT, SR., whose tragic death in the burning of the Copeland Hotel at Topeka in 1908 [1909] is generally recalled, was in his time one of the most prominent attorneys of Kansas and stood in the forefront of his profession and also as a public leader. His son, Isaac E. Lambert Jr., is also a lawyer, a resident of Emporia, and is now serving as chief clerk of the Kansas House of Representatives.

At the time of his death Isaac E. Lambert, Sr. was fifty-five years of age and in the prime of his powers. He was born in Knoxville, Illinois, in 1853, spent his early youth there, and graduated LL. B. from the Northwestern University Law School at Chicago. He began practice in Peoria, Illinois, where for a time he was in the office of the noted Robert Ingersoll. Coming to Kansas in 1875 he located in Emporia and soon had acquired a reputation and successful general practice. He was especially noted as a criminal lawyer, though for many years his practice was corporation work. The Santa Fe Railroad Company employed him as its attorney with jurisdiction over twenty-two counties from Lyon County to the western limits of the state. He was also attorney for the National Hereford Association and for a number of other associations and corporations.

He served at one time as United States district attorney of Kansas, was postmaster of Emporia during Benjamin Harrison’s administration. As a republican he was prominent both in county and state politics and was a delegate to the national convention that nominated William McKinley. He belonged to the Methodist Church and to Emporia Lodge No. 633, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Aside from his profession his favorite interest was the raising of blooded cattle and horses. He owned some extensive ranch properties, and his name was familiar to horsemen’s circles as the owner of Baron Wilkes, one of the famous trotting horses of his time.

Mr. Lambert married Hattie Barnes, who was born in Grand Haven, Michigan, 1856. They were married at Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mrs. Lambert died at Emporia in 1907. Her seven children were: Eddie and William, both of whom died in infancy; Boyd, who accidentally shot himself at the age of fourteen; Hattie, who died in infancy; Caroline, wife of J. B. Root, an insurance man at Emporia; Isaac E. Jr.; Calvin, now a senior in the University of California at Berkeley. A short time before his death Isaac E. Lambert, Sr., married Miss Milson Cutler, who was a first cousin of his first wife. She now resides in Berkeley, California.

Three children of Isaac and Hattie survived their parents. Caroline (d. 1965), Issac, Jr. (d. 1976), and Calvin (d. 1976).

In 2014, I discovered a poignant connection with Isaac and Hattie Lambert.



  1. Dan Goodall-Williams on February 12, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    You just never know what one will uncover! I love hearing information about the Cross house. It’s as interesting as your life Ross!

  2. Steve R. on February 12, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    Hi, Ross. Isaac Lambert’s son Calvin began working for William Allen White at The Emporia Gazette not long after the tragic hotel fire in Topeka. “Cal” Lambert moved on to work for newspapers in Kansas City before returning to Emporia where he became a real estate developer. Inspired by J.C. Nichols residential developments in south Kansas City, Lambert purchased land on the northwest edge of Emporia in the mid-1920s. The Berkeley Hills addition was the result. During the late 1940s, Lambert developed the residential area to the west of Berkeley Hills that includes Dover Road.

    • Ross on February 12, 2019 at 4:51 pm

      Wow! Thanks, Steve!

  3. Carl on February 12, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    What happened to Lamberts head that went missing? Was there foul play? A fire starts. He’s seen yelling to firemen. All the other guests escape. All they find is a headless body? Hmmm. Maybe he was about to be caught in some shady misuse of his political power and needed to disappear? And you say he was a Republican? Hmmm?

    • Ross on February 12, 2019 at 6:11 pm

      Carl, you are very bad!

      The part of the building where Lambert was collapsed. He was found in the rubble.

    • Michael Bazikos on February 13, 2019 at 12:26 am

      Carl,a dear friend of mine lost her sister Dec.1, 1958 in the tragic fire at Our Lady of the Angels school in Chicago. Carol Ann Gazzola was identified by her brother in law three days after the fire. She was burned to death in rm.211, an eight grade classroom. Apparently, her body was exposed to the full fury of the fire in that classroom, and not all of her body was found. She was missing an arm and a leg. 92 students and 3 teaching nuns lost their lives in what was determined to be an arson fire. If any good came from this tragedy it was that fire safety standards were overhauled for school buildings and future students were much safer.

      • Ross on February 13, 2019 at 12:35 am


        That is the most intense comment ever on this blog.

        My heart grieves for your dear friend and what she must have gone through all those years ago and still, no doubt, feels today.

        Thank you for sharing. Fire terrifies me.

        BIG hug,


  4. Stewart McLean on February 12, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    Have you had any contact with Lambert’s descendants? They may have photos c. 1907 or later depending on how long his heirs kept the house.

  5. Sandra Diane Lee on February 13, 2019 at 8:33 am

    Wonderful post!
    Love the historical background at Cross House unfolding via the posts.
    Interesting history on the Lambertd

  6. Kim on February 13, 2019 at 10:52 am

    “With the head missing” – yikes, what a grisly detail to include!

    • Ross on February 13, 2019 at 12:11 pm

      Agreed, Kim!

      I almost didn’t include that detail but didn’t want to sanitize history.

  7. Steven Radtke on February 13, 2019 at 11:55 am

    interesting. Grand Haven Michigan is near where I live. I was the director of the Local History Museum there for many years

  8. Carl on February 13, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    Lamberts son went to Berkeley then apparently his wife moved to Berkeley but then the son moved back to Emporia if I understand correct. I wonder did the son live in the Cross house and what happened to his wife after she moved to Berkeley?

  9. Carl on February 13, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    ….by “Wife” I mean Lambert Sr. Not the sons wife.

  10. Mike on February 13, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    The line about the missing head bothers me, and reminds me how that newspapers of the past would often write things and print pictures that, today, would seem very disturbing and inappropriate for a newspaper. Can you imagine how Mrs. Lambert and the children felt when they saw that line? I’m sure that they were already aware of the fact, but to have it broadcast on the street corner to all their friends and neighbors?
    It is odd that the two periods in the past 100+ years seen as being the most conservative (the Victorian age and the “Fabulous” 50s) both show a disturbing fascination with tragedy and the macabre. My grandfather and great-grandmother were killed in a car accident together in 1956; they were in a funeral procession when a loaded semi (going way too fast) came over a hill and plowed into the line of cars, killing 5 people in 3 cars. The local newspapers not only described the scene in gruesome detail, but actually published a photo showing my grandfather’s lifeless body being pulled from the wreckage. I had never seen the picture until last week; my aunt passed away recently and we are going through her house, and I found the newspaper article that my grandmother had saved. Even though I never met my grandpa, I still cried when I saw that horrible picture…

    • Sam's Mom on February 13, 2019 at 4:21 pm

      I’m so sorry….

      • Mike on February 14, 2019 at 7:27 am

        Thank you…

    • Allison on February 14, 2019 at 10:27 pm

      Oh my goodness, how awful. It is true, and strange, how often particular details were put into newspapers in the past. I volunteer as a old house researcher for the historic organization in my city, and have come across SO many articles that would shock people today. It can be entertaining, but truly awful when it’s a tragedy – like yours. My condolences.

  11. Melody on February 13, 2019 at 10:18 pm

    It is rather interesting to see the difference in what was (acceptably?) printed in those days and what is/is not nowadays.

    I volunteer with a local fire department. We have an active Facebook page that has 1700+ followers, which is a lot for a small, rural community. Anytime the department has been paged out, an update will be posted as to what the nature of the call was. Early yesterday morning was a mutual aid call for a motor vehicle collision, MVC. The posts are used to inform the public as to what the department is up too, and sometimes why they return to the hall shortly after leaving in full emergency response mode. A lot of mutual aid calls get cancelled on-route.

    These posts are always “clean and corrected”. A suicide will be posted as ‘medical assist, one patient transported to hospital’. It’s enough information for the curious public, but at the same time keeps everything private.

    • Mike on February 14, 2019 at 7:32 am

      It is hard to believe that our society is in any way more civilized than our grandparents, but in some ways that is apparently true. The reporter who described my grandparents’ accident even went so far as to speculate that they were not killed instantly (they almost certainly were), and that they must have suffered terribly in their final moments. Heartbreaking, and totally unnecessary.

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